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Cities With The Most DUI Violations: San Diego, San Jose Lead

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Cities With The Most DUI Violations: San Diego, San Jose Lead

By Bengt Halvorson

Deputy Editor

September 27th, 2010


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U.S. Navy drunk driving deterrence displayEnlarge PhotoSan Diego and San Jose, in California, have the most drunk-driving offenders among the top-20 largest cities in the U.S.

Insurance.com, in a recent look at its own data, found that cities that rank near the top have one or all of several characteristics: more drinkers and partiers in general, less public transportation, and better enforcement of DUI laws.

California has the most metro areas with high rates of convicted drunk drivers; four of the top-ten cities with the most drunk-driving offenders are in the Golden State. Texas ranked in the middle, with Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston all in the top fifteen. Several bigger Eastern cities—some of which, like Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York, have more robust public transit systems—ranked near the bottom for drunk-driving offenses.

Several of these cities might be ranked near the top not because of their concentration of drunk drivers but because of more aggressive enforcement (San Diego) or a younger crowd (San Jose) that's more likely, according to the IIHS, to drive drunk.

But, it's readily apparent, law enforcement officials aren't getting close to catching all the drunk drivers. For instance, in San Diego, an official said that the number of arrests they make is directly proportionate to the amount of grant money they get for the issue.

Looking at the opposite side—the cities with the lowest number of drunk-driving offenses—several higher-violent-crime

The figures are based only on those who requested auto-insurance quotes, over the past three years, through Insurance.com and reported having at least one alcohol-related violation.

Getting an alcohol-related offense on your record is one of the most serious and costly blemishes to your driving record, bringing dramatic affects to the pricing and availability of auto insurance, and in some states involving jail time or penalties like curfews, driving limitations, or ignition interlocks.

Again, back to the lists of cities with the most drunk-driving offenders and the least, we see a clear correlation between availability of public transit and offense rates.

Large cities with the most drunk-driving offenders:

San Diego

San Jose

Charlotte, N.C.



Large cities with the fewest drunk-driving offenders:




New York


Does mass transit save lives by keeping revelers out of the car? Let us know what you think.




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By Mark Kleis

When it comes to figuring out which cities in America suffer the highest rate of drunken driving, it may come as little surprise that cities with poor public transportation and strong DUI enforcement top the list.

A study compiled by Insurance.com tracked the reporting of DUIs by insurance clients, finding "America's Finest City" to also be America's drunkest driving city. San Diego not only has the most DUIs in terms of sheer volume, the city can also lay claim to the largest percentage of drivers with alcohol-related convictions.

According to Mark McCullough, a San Diego police department spokesperson specializing in DUI issues, the city most likely tops the list of drunken drivers because its police departments are aggressive in making DUI arrests. A sergeant and five specialized officers in San Diego spend 40 hours a week just stopping and arresting DUI offenders.

In addition, McCollough says the city's various law enforcement agencies apply for grants to fund around 20 sobriety checkpoints a year, plus special "saturation patrols." the saturation patrols are made up of trained officers watch traffic for tell-tale drivers' errors - not just obvious signs like weaving, but subtler indications like stopping too long at an intersection.

"The arrests are directly proportionate to the amount of grant money we get," he says. "It's a sad state of affairs but it's true."

San Diego's neighbor to the (far) north, San Jose, slides in at a cool number two. San Jose prides itself in its fierce anti-DUI laws and law enforcement. It's no mistake that two of the top cities come from California, which in many regards is considered the center of the fight against drunken driving. It was in California that an innocent little girl, Cari Lightner, was hit by a drunk driver while walking to school in Fair Oaks.

Lightner was hit so hard that her body was found 125 feet away from her shoes in the road. The driver had four previous drunken driving convictions, and fled the scene, only to be turned in later by his wife.

Top 20 List of drunk driving offenders as compiled by Insurance.com:

1.) San Diego

2.) San Jose

3.) Charlotte, N.C.

4.) Phoenix, AZ

5.) Columbus, OH

6.) Indianapolis, IN

7.) Los Angeles

8.) San Francisco

9.) Austin, Texas

10.) Jacksonville, FL

11.) San Antonio, TX

12.) Dallas

13.) Houston

14.) Fort Worth, TX

15.) Memphis, TN

16.) Philadelphia

17.) New York City

18.) Baltimore, MD

19.) Chicago

20.) Detroit



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